Voters decide today which candidates advance to fall general election

America is watching Indiana today — and waiting along with Hoosiers to see who wins in today’s primary election.

With both Republican and Democratic presidential nominations still contested, Hoosiers have found themselves with the unusual ability to influence who will be chosen as their party’s nominee for the fall election.

“I don’t think these conditions will repeat themselves,” said Robert Dion, chairman of the University of Evansville’s Department of Political Science.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, is challenging former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president. The Republican primary pits business executive Donald Trump against Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

As of the close of early voting at noon Monday, 5,535 walk-in voters had already cast ballots in Bartholomew County. That’s about four times the number of early voters that turned out locally in the 2008 Democratic primary between Clinton and now-President Barack Obama.

In terms of absentee ballots, travel board and email, an additional 740 votes had been cast as of 3 p.m. Saturday. That’s a 6.6 percent increase from the same time in 2008.

Voters who remember standing in line for more than two hours during the two most recent presidential elections should not rule out delays at polling centers today, said Nancy Ann Brown, Bartholomew County Democratic Central Committee chairwoman.

Barb Hackman, Bartholomew County Republican Central Committee chairwoman, also said there are no guarantees that traditional Election Day voters won’t have a wait.

“It is a presidential election, and there are only 18 voting centers — not 66 precincts,” Hackman said.

This is the first countywide election for vote centers, which give registered voters the option of casting ballots at any of 18 locations. Vote centers debuted last year for the Columbus city elections.

In anticipation of a heavy turnout, Bartholomew County Clerk Jay Phelps has assigned three extra workers to each of the city’s busiest voting centers for today.

Hackman emphasizes that if residents feel discouraged by a long line, they now have the option to drive to another voting center. Addresses can be found on the door of each polling place.

Reducing the number of places to vote has been a concern frequently brought up by rural residents who are utilizing voting centers for the first time, Phelps said.

Some residents who live in Clay and Clifty townships have noted to the clerk’s office that voters there do not have their own voting center.

Phelps says one of his regrets is that he didn’t schedule town-hall style meetings in those areas to better inform those residents about state-mandated standards involving internet access, parking and handicap accessibility.

Accessibility to bus routes was another concern for the local Election Board, as well as the size or condition of former polling places, Phelps said.

He anticipates many of those concerns will be addressed in time for the general election in November, he said.

Last summer’s resignation of former Bartholomew County Information Technology Director Jim Hartsook, as well as two veteran members of his staff, had many county officials concerned about possible technical glitches in the computerized vote center system.

“While we lost 60 percent of our personnel, we also lost about 80 percent of our knowledge,” Bartholomew County Commissioners Chairman Rick Flohr said.

Jeff Wehmiller, appointed to succeed Hartsook last October, submitted his resignation April 21.

However, the county contracted the services of Hartsook and former staffer Craig Pekar to assist the existing IT staff in today’s election, Phelps said.

“We feel comfortable and confident,” Phelps said. “We only expect normal Election Day hiccups.”

Primary challenges

While the presidential races have certainly captured the public’s attention over the past several months, voters have also expressed interest in a number of local and state races where incumbents are facing challenges — from their own party or the opposing party.

  • U.S. Rep. Luke Messer is being challenged in his run for a second term in Congress representing Indiana’s 6th District by fellow Republicans Charles Johnson and Jeff Smith. Five Democrats — Danny Basham, Jr., George Holland, Bruce Peavler, Ralph Spelbring and Barry Welsh — are vying to be on the Democratic ticket in November.
  • After 10 years in office, District 59 State Rep. Milo Smith is pitted against second-time challenger Ryan Lauer and Lew Wilson to advance on the Republican ballot. On the Democratic side, either Dale Nowlin or Bob Pitman will face the Republican nominee in November. 
  • Seeking his second term, District 69 State Rep. Jim Lucas finds himself pitted in the Republican primary race against Nancy L. Franke.
  • Two Republicans, Jorge Morales and Susan Thayer Fye, are opposing six-term District 1 Bartholomew County commissioner Larry Kleinhenz. 
  • Incumbent Bartholomew County Council at-large members Bill Lentz, Evelyn Pence and Jim Reed are being challenged by Michael Lovelace and Matt Miller.  Two Democrats, Pam Clark and Lynne Fleming, are waiting in the wings to take on the top three GOP vote-getters. A third Democrat, Gaby Cheek, said she is no longer interested in being on the fall ballot.  

Republican voters are choosing either Scott Andrews or Kelly Benjamin as their candidate for Judge of Bartholomew Circuit Court. Both are campaigning to succeed Democrat Stephen Heimann, who is retiring after 25 years on the bench. No one entered the Democratic primary for Circuit Court judge.

Numbers to call

For voting problems or concerns in Bartholomew County: 812-379-1604.

For rides to Bartholomew County voting centers – Republican: 812-350-5124. Democrat: 812-350-2855. 

Vote Centers

1. Flintwood Wesleyan Church, 5300 25th St, Columbus

2. St. John’s Masonic Lodge, 4131 Rocky Ford Road, Columbus

3. Grace Lutheran Church, 3201 Central Ave., Columbus

4. Healing Waters Church, 2330 Midway St., Columbus

5. Donner Center, 739 22nd St., Columbus

6. East Columbus Fire Station, 935 Repp Drive, Columbus

7. The Commons, 300 Washington St., Columbus

8. MainSource Bank, 2310 W. Jonathan Moore Pike

9. Terrace Lake Church, 4260 W. County Road 200S, Columbus

10. Faith Lutheran Church, 6000 W. State Road 46, Columbus

11. REMC building, 1697 W. Deaver Road, Columbus

12. Elizabethtown Fire Station, 10203 E. Legal Tender Road, Elizabethtown

13. Shiloh Baptist Church, 11988 E. State Road 46, Columbus

14. Hope Moravian Church, 202 Main St., Hope

15. Clifford Fire Station, 7850 N. Depot St., Clifford

16. German Township Fire Station, 9428 Main St., Taylorsville

17. Southwest Fire Station, 8500 S. State Road 58, Columbus

18. White Creek Lutheran Church, 16270 S. County Road 300W, Columbus

On the Web

Visit therepublic.com through the day to see how Election Day is progressing. After the polls close at 6 p.m., check back for results as they come in from the 18 vote centers across Bartholomew County. Results will be updated throughout the night until the final votes are tallied and winners declared.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.